Here’s your way-too-early roundup of how the big game season is going. If you’re a baseball fan, this is the box score after the first inning. If you’re a fan of politics, this is election results with 10 percent of the precincts reporting.
So why bother? Because we big game hunters are curious people, and many of us are gearing up for October and November hunts. But our early season hunting buddies had a chance to run around in the woods earlier and get a crack at bulls and bucks.
How did they do?
I posed that question to one our excellent biologist/number crunchers, who said I was basically barking up the wrong tree, although not in those exact words because she’s a professional biologist, not a writer.
She said something about “statistically insignificant” or a similar math term that left me slack jawed and confused.
But I figured when I got a random call from a buddy telling me he and his partners dropped two five-point bulls within 20 minutes of each other during archery season (true story), that’s not statistically significant either, but it’s pretty darned exciting.
My biologist pal went above and beyond the call of journalism and blended up some numbers, put them in a baby spoon and fed them to me so I even I could understand them.
I am going to share them with you with the disclaimer that it’s still the first inning with 10 percent of precincts reporting, to mix metaphors.
Here’s the cheat sheet. If you want the full break down, see below.
2017 elk harvested through Sept. 30: 690
2016 elk harvested through Sept. 30: 888
2017 deer harvested through Sept. 30: 281
2016 deer harvested through Sept. 30: 392
Why is this insignificant? Because most of the folks who’ve already reported did so because they harvested, and they represent a small portion of the overall hunters. There are many other hunters who haven’t reported, and even more whose seasons haven’t started yet.
There’s also still a lot of hunting season to go, and the vast majority of the deer and elk to be harvested are running around in the hills. To put the early numbers in perspective, hunters killed 66,923 deer and 22,557 elk last year.
If you want a better gauge of how the season is likely to play out, read our big game outlook for 2017, but the short version is elk hunting should be similar to last year, but hunters will see fewer mule deer and similar numbers of white-tailed deer, which is pretty good considering we had an all-time record whitetail harvest in 2015.
Overall, our big game harvest this fall will likely be somewhere between the high and low of the last five years, which have been above the long-term average.
Here are the early stats: